Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 479

Issue # 479                                     Week ending Saturday 24  November 2018

Now Listen Here, Spice Girls. Gotta Make Words Last Forever. Because Friendship Never Ends
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

It’s getting a bit chilly, isn’t it? The golden leaves are falling from the naked trees, the Christmas lights have been on in some places for a month and, at the rate of the last week, there are only 20 more government resignations to go until Christmas. Ah, the cold winter of the Brexit question is almost upon us and the government is teetering on the brink, or steadfast and stable, depending on who you chose to listen to. What would great leaders of the past have done? Would Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill hold the ship any steadier?

Never mind, there is good news. They’re getting back together - again. Blah, blah, blah. I shouldn’t be so miserable about the Spice Girls. After all, they did spice up the country for, well, a few years. Everyone knows who they are. Baby Spice, Ginger Spice, Mel B and Mel C made us smile and wiggle our whatchamaycallits. Posh Spice was there too, but only in body. Maybe they were not the best singers and maybe, just maybe, they did mime sometimes but so what? It was all about the fun. Girl power, yay.

Victoria Beckham has decided she will not be part of it. She has so much money, sorry, so many commitments with her fashion work, that she is not able to contribute enough to the latest tour. So, no change there then. It really will be like the old Spice Girls. Well, she couldn’t even smile or even pretend she was enjoying herself. I just think she should have made more of an effort. Still, she makes great outfits. Apparently.

Sparkling lyrics though that were the unique selling point of those bouncy girls. It showed the world how different they were. All about girl power, showing the world that they could be the intelligent, thinking persons’ idols just as much as East 17 or Take That or ... er, that These girls had style, elegance, motivational words that set the world on fire - and bare midriffs. Oh yeah, I forgot about that. Their little tiny jumpers that had obviously shrunk in the wash. Better to wear them than chuck them. Quite right too. Yeah, these girls were just helping save the planet.

“There’s been tears along the way, but we're still the best of friends.” Er, what happened, lassies? Apparently, a silly joke two years by Mel C put the Beckham girl’s nose out of joint and that was when she stopped speaking to the others. How did that go? “Never needed to pretend, ‘cause real friendship never ends.” Wanna, wanna, wanna. Ochan, ochan, ochan. The Spice Girls are becoming as frosty to each other as the Free Church and the Free Church (Continuing). They probably sing different songs though.

Motivational lyrics are great whether they are in psalms, from the Spice Girls or by our greatest gifted writers. Ernestine Ulmer was an American author born in 1892, or 1925 or 1934, depending on which research sources you consult. Although had little success as an author, in one book a character utters a line which has been borrowed and stolen ever since. It was li’l ole Ernestine who first wrote: “Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.” That trumps every motivational quotation since. What would you rather? “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today?” or “Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.” Girl power. Go, Ernestine. Wow, wow,wow.

Short and to the point, the best ones inspire people. Nelson Mandela would quote a great one when people asked why he didn’t waver even when left to rot in prison. He would say: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” And Mandela blooming well did it, if anyone did. The other quote of his that always got me was the one when he said that anger and thoughts of revenge are pointless because they will only ever hurt the person thinking them. He put it in picturesque fashion when he said: “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

If quotes like that have a bit of wit about them, all the better. Definitely among my favourites are a few by Winston Churchill. There are so many. The absolute best quote which I have seen attributed to our great leader was one which he never actually said: Several books say he said it and the internet insists he did but, no, there is no record that he ever said any such thing. That’s a shame. It is: “If you are going through hell, keep going.” Hell, yeah.

Churchill actually worked very hard at coming up with quotes and jiggling them around to make them better. Before he had a speech, he would often be found in a corner with a glass of champagne to wet the tubes and scribbling furiously. When asked, he would say he was just jotting down a few impromptu notes. He loved to be quoted and could not even resist a jibe at those who did that, saying: “It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read quotations.”

Sturgeon Has 'Frank' Exchange with May

Nicola Sturgeon says the latest draft of Theresa May's Brexit agreement is a document which will ask people to "take a blindfold leap off a cliff".  The first minister held talks with the prime minister in London and said they had a "full, frank and calm" exchange of views. She said Mrs May had shown her the latest draft of her plan but claimed it was a "vague, aspirational document".  Number 10 said it was "the best deal that could have been negotiated".  Ms Sturgeon said: "I've seen today the current draft - it's not binding, it doesn't have legal effect and effectively it amounts to the House of Commons being asked to vote to exit the EU without knowing what comes next.  That's asking people to take a blindfold leap off a cliff edge and I have said all along I just don't think that's a reasonable or acceptable thing to do.  Perhaps if there had been more willingness to listen to different voices over the past couple of years we would be in a better position now.  There's an argument that says we're getting a little late in the day for that meaningful engagement but as long as the possibility is there I will take it."  A Downing Street spokeswoman said: "The prime minister made clear that we are negotiating a deal with the EU that works for all parts of the United Kingdom - Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland - and delivers on the result of the referendum.  The deal will give Scottish businesses the clarity and certainty they need to protect jobs and living standards, and see us take back control of our waters, improving the fortunes of our fishermen.  The prime minister also emphasised her firm belief that the withdrawal agreement is the best deal that could have been negotiated and is in the interests of the entire of the United Kingdom."  A No 10 source added: "The PM urged the FM to listen to Scottish employers and to back the agreement reached with the EU. The truth is that SNP plans just make a no deal Brexit more likely."  Ms Sturgeon also admitted she has not yet found common ground with Labour over an alternative Brexit deal after meeting UK party leader Jeremy Corbyn.  She held talks with Mr Corbyn in Westminster to try to coalesce around another way forward but said "we're not there yet".  She said she wanted to see a "coalition of opposition" over the draft Brexit deal after speaking to Mr Corbyn.  And she said there was a "strong willingness" among the opposition parties to work together. Ms Sturgeon and Mr Corbyn have both criticised Prime Minister Theresa May's draft Brexit agreement, which was published last week.  Mrs May argues that the plan is the only realistic chance of avoiding a "no deal" Brexit.  But there has been widespread criticism of the draft 585-page withdrawal agreement and the short paper setting out what the UK and EU's future relationship could look like.  Two of the prime minister's cabinet ministers have resigned - including her Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab - while others are believed to be trying to change its wording, and there has been talk of a Tory leadership challenge.  Ms Sturgeon, who says she wants to find a "workable alternative" to the deal, held "exploratory" talks with Mr Corbyn, Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable, Green MP Caroline Lucas and Plaid Cymru's Westminster leader Liz Roberts, ahead of her meeting with the prime minister.  She told the BBC there was agreement with Mr Corbyn that the prime minister's deal was a bad one, and that no deal should not be the only alternative.  The first minister added: "The next stages of all of this have to be to look at what we can coalesce around in terms of alternatives". Ms Sturgeon has already said the 35 SNP MPs will vote against the deal in the House of Commons and has accused the prime minister of presenting a "false choice" between the agreement and a no-deal Brexit.  The first minister has called for continued, permanent single market and customs union membership for the whole of the UK as an alternative, and has been highly critical of the "backstop" proposals for Northern Ireland, which she has said could have a "devastating" impact on jobs and investment in Scotland if they are enacted. On Monday, the prime minister tried to persuade business leaders that the deal offered the best way forward, saying it would stop EU migrants from being able to "jump the queue".  She told the CBI conference in London that migration would become skills-based, with Europeans no longer prioritised over "engineers from Sydney or software developers from Delhi".  Ms Sturgeon later tweeted that she believed the prime minister's choice of words was "offensive" and "disgraceful".

Scottish Government to Back Proposals to Ban Mechanical Harvesting of Kelp
The Scottish Government has announced it will back proposals to ban the mechanical harvesting of kelp in Scotland's waters.  Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham confirmed her support for the plan to prohibit the practice, as outlined in the Scottish Crown Estate Bill.  Ms Cunningham made the statement on Tuesday in response to Scottish Green MSP John Finnie ahead of a final debate on the Bill on Wednesday.  The proposal was initially brought after more than 10,000 people backed a petition against the practice.  An amendment made by the Scottish Green Party's Environment spokesman Mark Ruksell MSP was approved last month.  Ms Cunningham said: "We recognise that kelp is an important part of our marine biodiversity and, having considered amendments to the Crown Estate Bill, we intend to support Mark Ruskell's amendment, although there are some clarifications and qualifications that require to be made.  It is our view that commercial use should not extend to power stations or commercial ports or other, similar public infrastructure being prevented from removing kelp species for maintenance or for other public interest reasons and nor should it prevent appropriate research and development. Removals shouldn't be prevented where the activity is hand-cutting, which SNH have advised is sustainable, and I can say that I will consider the need for guidance or directions to managers on these issues.  I will be announcing a review of the regulatory regime of all kelp harvesting activity up to and including farming."  Mr Finnie said: "I am delighted that the Cabinet Secretary has indicated she will back Green plans to prohibit the mechanical harvesting of kelp by dredging. My constituents on the west coast have engaged in an extremely effective campaign and deserve to be commended for their great efforts in securing this change of heart by the Scottish Government."  Mr Ruskell said: "Kelp forests are hugely important to our marine environment.  They dampen waves, protecting coastal communities from flooding and erosion, act as a habitat for hundreds of species, and store more carbon dioxide than the rainforest.  Greens have been working extremely hard to ensure that the practice of dredging for kelp is prohibited in legislation and I am delighted that the Scottish Government will now back my proposals to save Scotland's kelp forests."  Industry bosses earlier this week warned legislation banning the practice in Scotland's waters could hit the economy by as much as £300 million.  Tom Shields, chairman of industry body Chemical Sciences Scotland, said the country risked no longer being seen as a competitive place for science-based businesses. "Businesses need to be confident that Government regulatory processes will be upheld," he said.  "Without that confidence, Scotland won't be considered a competitive place to build a science-based business and we'll lose future investment opportunities to other countries. Chemical and biotech businesses are capital intensive, long-term investments and companies simply can't take the risk that Government's regulatory procedures will be bypassed because of a campaign."

Go-ahead Given to £10 Million Tourist Development

A £10 million hotel and retail attraction dubbed “The House of Bruar of the north” and promising more than 100 new jobs has been granted planning permission by Highland Council.  Planning officials exercised delegated powers to approve Tomatin Trading Company’s long-held ambition for a 99-bedroom hotel, farm shop, 200-seat restaurant, drive-through bakery, shops and a filling station.  Praising Inverness planners for “spurring economic growth”, the hotel development’s managing director William Frame said the 12-month building project could start in spring, creating 40 construction jobs and 70 long-term hotel and retail posts initially.  “I’m very pleased that planning has been granted,” he said.  “It means that we can push on with the hard part, which is getting the development built and creating a destination that reflects the very best in food, drink, gifts and accommodation that Scotland has to offer.”  Community leaders including Inverness South councillors Duncan Macpherson and Ken Gowans, welcomed the Tomatin project saying it would be a real asset to Inverness’s southern gateway.  Cllr Macpherson said comparisons had been drawn between the project and the lucrative House of Bruar near Blair Atholl and it will be exciting to watch the “ambitious plan” come to fruition.  The 3.5-acre brownfield site had detailed mixed-use consent for hotel, restaurant and retail use which was granted in 2007.  Things were delayed by a combination of complex planning conditions, the banking crisis and confirmation of a new road layout for the imminent dualling of the nearby stretch of the A9.  The site was previously occupied by the Freemore Hotel and, later, a Little Chef roadside restaurant that was demolished in 2008.  Mr Frame, who is the principal of Braemore Estates, said getting to the planning permission stage had been “a really long slog”. He added: “It was hard to get agreement from many different people but we are now moving forward and I have to say Inverness planners were excellent. They want to see economic development, that’s for sure.  It’s heartening to deal with a planning department that backs business. It’s not like that everywhere, I can tell you.”  Cllr Gowans said the large-scale development would be “really good for the area”.  He added: “It’s going to bring a lot of revenue to the area and I’m sure the community will be very supportive of it as well.”  This was echoed by Vivian Roden, Strathdearn Community Council chairwoman, who said “overall” it was good for the area.  I think it’s good for jobs,” she said. “We have lost so many facilities as a community over the last few years. This will put some of them back in.”

Outer Hebrides: More People Flying to Island Than Ever Before

More people are flying into the Outer Hebrides’ main airport than ever before with passenger numbers setting a new record this autumn.  October was the busiest month ever for air passenger numbers in and out of Stornoway Airport on the Isle of Lewis, according to figures released by Loganair.  Passenger numbers were up by 22 per cent compared to 2017, setting an all-time record.  A total of 11,093 people used the Isle of Lewis airport, travelling to Edinburgh, Glasgow or Inverness on Loganair services.  The Glasgow to Stornoway route reported particularly strong passenger numbers, with almost 7000 passengers taking advantage of these routes across the 31-day period. October is traditionally a busy month in the Islands with the school holiday and the Royal National Mod with people travelling in and out of Stornoway.

National Museum Exhibition to Trace 18th Century Origins of Scottish Tourism

Kilts, bagpipes, lochs and mountains are iconic images which have long been deployed to sell the country to the rest of the world.  Now a major new exhibition is to explore how the origins of Scottish tourism date back more than 250 years.  The National Museum of Scotland is to examine the roots of the “romantic and heroic” visions of the country which were created by artists, writers and even monarchs - and how they transformed the way the country was perceived at home and abroad.  Curators say it will challenge long-held perceptions that “fantasy” images of the Highlands were simply invented in the 18th and 19th centuries.  The exhibition, to be staged next year, will trace the evolution of Scotland’s global image from the crushing defeat of the Jacobites at the Battle of Culloden to the transformation of Balmoral Castle into a Highland home for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  The legacy of the Highland Clearances, the adoption of the kilt as a symbol of status and fashion after a contentious ban was overturned, and the impact of 1822 royal visit of King George to Scotland - the first by a reigning monarch in nearly two centuries - will also be explored in the exhibition.  Due to run from June-November, it will explore the influence writers like Sir Walter Scott, George Byron, James Macpherson, Samuel Johnson and James Boswell, the artist John Knox and the bagpiper John Ban Mackenzie had on Scottish culture and tourism.  Musical instruments, paintings, furniture, costumes, weapons and jewellery will be going on display in Wild and Majestic: Romantic Visions of Scotland, the final part of a “trilogy” of exhibitions which have already examined the life of Mary Queen of Scots and the influence of the Jacobites across Europe.  Dr Stuart Allan, keeper of Scottish history at the museum, said the exhibition would explore how the country was “propelled on a journey into the forefront of the global imagination” in the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as the changes in Scottish national identity that the country went through in the wake of Culloden.  He said: “We will be looking at how the images of a Highlander became a shorthand for Scotland as a whole and how things like tartan, the kilt, bagpipes and a sense of a heroic and tragic history became touchstones for an idea of what Scotland was. We will be questioning and examining the whole relationship between romance and reality. We sometimes hear that this way of thinking Scotland is based on a kind of romantic fantasy. We will be looking at where these ideas came from and suggesting that the reality is far more complex and compelling than the suggestion that it was some sort of fantastic interpretation. Sir Walter Scott is often thought of is being the author of it all, but he was really only part of a process that was well underway, in terms of looking at Scotland’s past and promoting it in a particular way Scott and other historians of a romantic bent were storytellers, but they were also interested in evidence and authenticity. That’s the relationship we will be digging into.” Dr Gordon Rintoul, director of the National Museum, said: “This is the last of three exhibitions where we have revisited eras in Scottish history that people think they know about but have actually looked at the reality behind them. It used to be thought that the images of Scotland that tended to be projected around the world were all just invented in the 18th and 19th centuries, when they were based on re-interpretations of traditional culture for particular purposes. You can still see threads of that today in how Scotland is promoted. This exhibition will really look into where that came from.”

Over 350 Cracks Found in Hunterston B Nuclear Reactor

More than 350 cracks have been discovered in Hunterston B's nuclear reactor, pushing the total over government safety limits.  A smaller number of cracks were already known about but the figure has risen sharply following recent inspections at the North Ayrshire plant. Owners EDF Energy closed the site's reactor three in March this year for more detailed investigation. The firm said the reactor was safe, and it hoped to bring it back into service. A spokeswoman insisted: "Nuclear safety is our overriding priority."  The UK government's Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) state that 350 cracks is the "operational limit".  An ONR spokesperson said: "A conservative assessment of the inspection results shows that the number of cracks in reactor three exceeded the operational limit of 350 cracks in the existing safety case.  However, it should be noted that the safety case demonstrates a significant margin beyond this limit and safe operation was ensured."  The cracks sit in the channels of the reactor's graphite core where the control rods slot in to suppress the nuclear reaction and shut down the plant.  In a worst case scenario, if there was a seismic event, cracks could distort the channel and potentially prevent control rods from slotting in.  The plan is to decommission the plant before that becomes possible. It is currently expected to continue operating until 2023.  EDF reported cracks to stakeholders in June but said the damage was "significantly mitigated" by the gaps being narrower than ONR's safety case.  The firm confirmed it will present a safety case to ONR to bring reactor three back into operation. An EDF Energy spokeswoman said: "The most recent results support the work we are doing on the long-term safety case and underline our confidence that the normal operations at the station are unaffected and that there would be safe shutdown in the event of a 1 in 10,000 year earthquake.  We are preparing to present a safety case for return to service of reactor three to the regulator, the ONR, for their assessment.  We have also carried out similar inspections on reactor four and the case for return to service for that unit is currently with the ONR for review."  Rita Holmes, chairwoman of the Hunterston Site Stakeholder Group, challenged the energy supplier, saying she did not believe reactor three should be brought back into operation.  She said: "If safety were indeed EDF's number one priority, then reactor three would remain shut down. As it is EDF is seeking permission to restart an aged reactor, which despite huge efforts and high cost, failed to back up its current safety case. The Hunterston keyway root cracking was not predicted to be so progressed."

Simple Sugar Supplement 'Can Slow Cancer Growth'

Researchers at Glasgow University have found evidence that a simple sugar supplement can slow the growth of cancer.  The team from the Cancer Research UK (CRUK) Beatson Institute also found it could make chemotherapy more effective against some tumours.  They carried out their experiments on mice but say it could one day lead to human treatment. The Glasgow study may point to a way of "starving" cancerous cells.  Every cell in our bodies feeds on the sugar glucose. Tumour cells consume even more.  The team, led by Prof Kevin Ryan of Glasgow University, fed mice with tumours another sugar called mannose.  Mannose occurs naturally in many fruits. It is also made in some cells in our bodies.  Its molecular structure is very nearly identical to that of glucose but the tiny difference seems to hold a crucial key.  The mice had different types of tumours. Some were given mannose three times a week through a feeding tube. Others got it continuously in their drinking water.  Writing in the journal Nature, Prof Ryan's team report the mice showed no obvious side effects from the mannose. More importantly, the sugar appeared to reduce significantly the growth of some kinds of tumours.  The process was repeated, this time with the widely-used chemotherapy drugs cisplatin and doxorubicin to see if mannose increased their effectiveness. In some cases, tumour growth appeared to slow and the lifespans of some mice actually increased. The reason? The tumours, hungry for glucose, were being starved. Mannose seems to get in the way.  The experiments suggest that mannose does not so much block glucose getting to the cancer cells but rather affect how those cells try to use the glucose.  A key sign that it is working is the presence of an enzyme called phosphomannose isomerase (PMI). Mannose is linked to lower levels of PMI in cancer cells.  The Beatson Institute researchers tested this aspect on human cancer cells in the lab.  Ovarian, kidney, breast, prostate and bowel cancer cells were among those tested. The lowest PMI levels were found with bowel cancer cells. Mice with the same cancer also developed significantly fewer tumours.  There are, however, significant caveats. This is not a cancer cure. It may not even be a treatment.  To move from this discovery to something that can be given to patients may take years.  Prof Ryan says the results are promising but further research is needed to confirm the findings. He said:"We're pushing forward towards clinical trials as fast as we can."  One positive aspect of that is that mannose is already sold as a dietary supplement. Doctors can prescribe it as a short-term remedy for some urinary infections.  But the implications of long-term treatment are not known.  The head nurse at CRUK, Martin Ledwick, is warning cancer patients not to self-prescribe mannose.  "This is very early research," he says.  "There is a real risk of negative side effects that haven't been tested for yet.  It's important to consult with a doctor before drastically changing your diet or taking new supplements. But saving lives starts with discoveries like this."

'No Criminality' in Handling of Lockerbie Bombing Investigation

Police have found no evidence of criminality in relation to the handling of the investigation and prosecution of the Lockerbie bombing case.  A team of detectives spent four years examining nine allegations made by the Justice for Megrahi campaign group.  The investigation - Operation Sandwood - has now been completed and the Lord Advocate informed.  It concluded there was no evidence of criminality and "no basis to submit a standard prosecution report".  Pan Am flight 103 was on its way from London to New York when it exploded above Lockerbie on 21 December 1988, killing 270 people.  Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted in 2001, the only person found guilty of the bombing. He was jailed for 27 years but died of prostate cancer aged 60 in 2012 after being released on compassionate grounds in 2009.  The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) announced earlier this year that a full review of the case is to be carried out to decide if a fresh appeal against Megrahi's conviction can be made.  Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said officers had carried out a "methodical and rigorous inquiry" in the latest operation.  "The substance of the allegations was diverse in nature and the sheer scale and complexity of the task has resulted in a particularly protracted inquiry which has taken longer than originally thought," he said.  "However, this reflects the hard work and professionalism of the officers involved and their meticulous approach to the inquiry.  The findings and conclusions have been validated by a senior Queen's Counsel, entirely unconnected with and acting independently from the Crown Office."  The Crown Office said the documents would be given appropriate consideration.  A spokesman confirmed the Lord Advocate had been informed that no evidence of criminality had been found.  "The findings contain material relevant to the live investigation into the Lockerbie bombing and to the SCCRC consideration of the case," he said.  "On that basis, the documents have been passed to the Crown Office and procurator fiscal service team dealing with the live investigation so that they can be given appropriate consideration."  The Justice for Megrahi campaign said that while there would be no prosecution, the findings of the inquiry could be of importance to the SCCRC review of the case.  It thanked police for carrying out the investigation with "thoroughness and integrity".  "As the 30th anniversary of this tragedy approaches we feel there is a very real possibility that the truth behind the UK's worst ever terrorist outrage will finally be revealed," the group said.  "We have confidence that the Scottish criminal justice system will welcome this light that has now been shone into the darkness that surrounds Lockerbie and will ensure that the truth is finally revealed to those who lost their loved ones on the 21 December 1988."  Aamer Anwar, the solicitor representing the Megrahi family which has applied to the SCCRC for a second appeal against his conviction, said they were "deeply disappointed" at the findings of Operation Sandwood.

First Oil Produced Using New Technology in Field West of Shetland

Energy giant BP has used technology designed to maximise oil production offshore for the first time, as it began pumping oil from a new development west of Shetland.  The firm hopes to be able to get 640 million barrels of oil from the Clair Ridge, with production expected to peak at 120,00 barrels a day.  The new development is the second phase of the Clair field, which was discovered just over 40 years ago with an estimated seven billion barrels of reserves.  To get the oil from the site, which is 75 kilometres west of Shetland, BP used its enhanced recovery technology for the first time offshore.  The technique involved is called “LoSal”, with the energy firm having estimated its use could result in up to 40 million additional barrels being removed over the lifetime of the project.  Two new oil platforms, which are linked by a bridge, with pipelines to take away the oil and gas have been installed there, with BP having invested more than £4.5 billion there.  Bernard Looney, BP chief executive upstream, said: “The start-up of Clair Ridge is a culmination of decades of persistence.  Clair was the first discovery we made in the west of Shetland area in 1977. But trying to access and produce its seven billion barrels proved very difficult. We had to leverage our technology and ingenuity to successfully bring on the first phase of this development in 2005.  And now more than 40 years after the original discovery, we have first oil from Clair Ridge, one of the largest recent investments in the UK.  This is a major milestone for our opstream business and highlights BP’s continued commitment to the North Sea region.”  Andy Samuel, the chief executive of industry regulators at the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), said the production of the first oil from the newly built Clair Ridge platform was a “major milestone” for the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).  He added: “The OGA continues to view the west of Shetland as strategically important with substantial remaining potential.  The Clair Field has in excess of seven billion barrels in place and is expected to sustain production for many decades to come, with significant scope for further phases of development.”  Deirdre Michie, the chief executive of industry body Oil and Gas UK, said Clair Ridge was part of a “frontier region which is likely to have the greatest potential to expand current UK production”.  She added: “It’s greatly encouraging to see one of the basin’s original explorers using new, ambitious approaches and pioneering technology to help lead a revival in production.  This is another firm step towards maximising economic recovery from the basin.”

Dundee to Welcome Decommissioning Firm
Dundee has moved a step closer to becoming the UK’s hub for decommissioning with the news that an “ambitious” business operating in the sector is to open its UK headquarters in the city.  Offshore Decommissioning Services (ODS) said the move comes as it seeks to focus on imminent requirements in the North Sea, accelerating efficiencies, and then extend its focus globally.  The firm was established in 2017, after more than a year of research and development (R&D) and conceptual design, by a team of oil and gas professionals with decades of engineering, construction and commissioning experience in the industry. It is developing specialist technology to support work regarding future North Sea oil and gas decommissioning projects, with work in hand to build a UK flagged multi-purpose heavy lift vessel to be named Moonraker 1. It will be delivered in 2021 to meet the anticipated escalation in North Sea decommissioning demand.  ODS highlighted “significant” investment in the vessel, which once in operation will be manned by a crew of 70 and can also provide pipeline and bundle removal along with offshore installation projects. Moonraker 1 will also be supported by a newly established engineering and logistics hub to be situated in Dundee.  ODS has been working with Dundeecom, a public-private partnership between Dundee City Council, DC Thomson and Forth Ports set up to establish Dundee as a multi-disciplinary, globally recognised centre of excellence in oil and gas decommissioning. And ODS said it chose Dundee for its hub for its strong ability to accommodate a major share of North Sea decommissioning work.  It sees this as being due to the proximity to many UK North Sea oil and gas assets, rail and road links, port facilities, on-site supply chain, the city’s skilled workforce and local universities and colleges, which ODS believe will be vital in upskilling their workforce.  ODS chief executive Lee Johnson said: “It is ODS’ ambition to reduce the cost and time to decommission topsides, substructures and subsea infrastructure and we believe ODS, working with others in Dundee, can bring a holistic and commercially attractive decommissioning solution to the industry. We can deliver the Oil and Gas Authority strategy on cost reduction, regulatory compliance and contractual and commercial optimization from Dundee. We wanted Dundee to be our logistics base due to the strong potential R&D network, including academia and industry bodies as we [seek] synergies with businesses already located in the city. Access to local available, capable and cost effective labour force is also a major benefit for our business. We look forward to moving into Dundee next year.”

Independent Inquiry Call Into Curfew Breach Murder

A cross-party call has been made for an inquiry into the circumstances that led to a Paisley father-of-three being murdered by a man on the run.  James Wright stabbed Craig McLelland to death five months after removing his tag and breaching a home curfew.  Wright was jailed for life in June for killing the 31-year-old.  Three opposition MSPs have written to Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf asking for an independent inquiry into the case.  Previous Justice Secretary Michael Matheson asked prisons and police watchdogs to "look at this matter thoroughly" in the wake of the killing.  New rules on home detention curfews (HDCs), which have been used in Scotland since 2006, were set out in October following Mr McLelland's murder.  The request to Mr Yousaf has been made by Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie, Scottish Labour justice spokesman Daniel Johnson, and Scottish Conservatives justice spokesman Liam Fox.  The three MSPs said they met Mr McLelland's partner and father last week.  The letter to Mr Yousaf said: "We welcome your personal commitment to ensuring lessons will be learned but it is impossible for this to be done until there is full transparency about what occurred. There is no such transparency at present. We believe something clearly went very wrong and that it is incumbent on you to establish this. There must be clarity about the circumstances, in particular the grounds and process for releasing James Wright in the first place and how he was allowed to be unlawfully at large when he broke the rules and should have been returned to prison. Craig's family deserve to know and we believe that an inquiry would also undoubtedly be in the public's interest." The letter added: "We urge you to immediately order a full independent inquiry. Without this, nobody can be assured that the solutions proposed will stop such an appalling series of events happening again."  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described Mr McClelland's murder as "awful" and said she was not surprised the family were still seeking answers.  Both police and prison inspectors carried out reviews of systems following the incident but the family said these failed to fully explain why his killer was out on the streets.  Scottish Prison Service chief executive Colin McConnell told MSPs on Tuesday that a presumption against HDCs for those convicted of violent offences - which has been brought in following the reviews - had reduced the number of prisoners freed in such conditions from 25 to 30 a week to just seven.  Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: "While nothing can take away the grief of the McClelland family, the Scottish government will continue to do all we can to support the family to ensure that lessons are learned and improvements are made.  I will reply to the letter as soon as possible, and will be meeting the family again shortly."  He added: ""Following the publication of the two independent inspectorate reports into the Home Detention Curfew scheme, I met with the family and advised that the Scottish government, the Scottish Prison Service, and Police Scotland had accepted all of the reports' recommendations, including considering making it a specific offence to remain 'unlawfully at large'. Our focus is on ensuring that relevant agencies, along with government, make real and demonstrable progress and I have asked both Inspectorates to review progress in six m
onths' time."